Vardy dilemma for Le­ices­ter against Reds

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Lon­don, UK - Le­ices­ter City face run­away English Premier League lead­ers Liver­pool on Box­ing Day know­ing their own ti­tle hopes are very much in the bal­ance.

Thurs­day's match will see the sec­ond-placed Foxes, the shock 2015-16 cham­pi­ons, kick off ten points adrift of Liver­pool, who will ar­rive in the East Mid­lands fresh from win­ning a maiden FIFA Club World Cup ti­tle fol­low­ing a 1-0 vic­tory over Brazil­ian side Fla­mengo in Qatar.

One of the more re­mark­able sta­tis­tics in English foot­ball is that it is nearly 30 years since Liver­pool were last crowned do­mes­tic cham­pi­ons in what was then the First Divi­sion.

But English Premier League sil­ver­ware is now in sight fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful 2019 that has also seen Liver­pool take the Cham­pi­ons League and UEFA Su­per Cup tro­phies back to An­field as well as the Club World Cup.

One of the en­dur­ing pe­cu­liar­i­ties of the English game that has not changed, how­ever, is the packed pro­gramme of matches that take place dur­ing the Christmas and New Year hol­i­day pe­riod.

The con­gested sched­ule is again caus­ing headaches for man­agers, with Foxes boss Bren­dan Rodgers say­ing the fix­ture list is a 'non­sense'.

Le­ices­ter kick off against Liver­pool at 2000 GMT (12am, Oman time) on Thurs­day be­fore they play West Ham on Satur­day.

‘Game about money now’

They then com­plete four games in ten days with a trip to

New­cas­tle on New Year's Day, be­fore host­ing Wi­gan in the FA Cup on Jan­uary 4.

This presents Rodgers with a prob­lem about how of­ten to field Jamie Vardy, the league's lead­ing scorer so far this sea­son, given the striker is now aged 32.

"The game is about money now. You can't say it's about the wel­fare of play­ers," in­sisted

Rodgers, him­self a for­mer Liver­pool man­ager who added that Vardy, for all he has scored 16 goals this term, had 'no chance' of be­ing in­volved through­out the fes­tive pe­riod.

This sea­son sees the EPL ex­per­i­ment­ing with a ' win­ter break' that will see all teams get a week­end off in Fe­bru­ary.

But that pales into in­signif­i­cance com­pared to the Ger­man League's long-es­tab­lished win­ter break.

The Ger­man top-flight closes down for sev­eral weeks in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, with Rodgers say­ing the English break was a 'let's pre­tend' ver­sion.

Liver­pool will be with­out Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain af­ter the mid­fielder suf­fered an an­kle in­jury against Fla­mengo as Jur­gen Klopp's side, un­beaten in the EPL this sea­son, bid to go 13 points clear and all but end the ti­tle-race be­fore by the half­way stage.

"If any­one wants to think things are over be­fore they are over we can­not stop them do­ing that, though it is not im­por­tant to us," said Liver­pool man­ager Klopp.

"As a group we are pretty good at shut­ting the doors all around us to keep out the noise from out­side," the Ger­man added.

Fourth-placed Chelsea, fresh from a 2-0 win away to Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur marred by al­le­ga­tion of racist abuse, are at home to Southamp­ton while Spurs will be with­out the sus­pended Son He­ung-min for the visit of Brighton af­ter the South Korean's red card against the Blues.

Mikel Arteta's reign as Arse­nal man­ager starts away to Bournemout­h, while new Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti is in charge at home to Burn­ley.

New­cas­tle, man­aged by for­mer Old Traf­ford favourite Steve Bruce, will look to com­plete a league dou­ble over Manch­ester United with both sides presently level on 25 points and look­ing to break into the top six.

Sh­effield United face Wat­ford, still bot­tom de­spite last week's win over Manch­ester United.

"We're half­way through this sea­son and we knew this sea­son was go­ing to be a sea­son of some ups and downs," said Manch­ester United man­ager Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer.

Mean­while reign­ing cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City are away to Wolves on Fri­day. Fix­tures (7pm, Oman time, un­less stated): Thurs­day: As­ton Villa vs Nor­wich, Bournemout­h vs Arse­nal, Chelsea vs Southamp­ton, Crys­tal Palace vs West Ham, Everton vs Burn­ley, Le­ices­ter vs Liver­pool (12am), Manch­ester United vs New­cas­tle (9.30pm), Sh­effield United vs Wat­ford, Tot­ten­ham vs Brighton (4.30pm). Fri­day: Wolves vs Manch­ester City (11.45pm).

Jamie Vardy Jamie Vardy

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